Why Windows 8 Is A Great Operating System

The Surface is apparently not very good. Demand for Windows 8 is apparently weak. Apparently it has a 2-week learning curve. But I’ll be damned if I don’t like Microsoft’s new operating system on the right computer.

After a few weeks of playing with my wife’s Sony T-Series – a $700-or-so touch-screen Windows 8 laptop that, in comparison to my Macbook Pro Retina is a bit whimpy, I can’t help but pick the thing up as my primary go-to machine. It’s easy to use. It makes sense. You poke big buttons to load up things that you want to load. You install things like a Windows machine. You run things like a Windows machine. It’s the same thing, with a skin put over it that actually works, but only if you have a touch screen. On my self-built frankenstein’s monster of a machine, Windows 8 is a deformed, useful screensaver. But on a touchscreen machine like Sony’s (which for $700 surprised me with a very, very high-quality 13.3″ capacitive touch screen), it makes total sense. You slide panels. You slide windows. You combine touches and typing and mouse-clicks as you would a little horrible symphony that makes a sound that’s almost productive.

The truth of the matter is, the world has become so anti-Microsoft that they can’t help but look past Ballmer’s mishaps both ridiculous and egregious.

Windows 8 might actually approach being the future of a desktop operating system, and it sucks that we’re all too proud to admit it. Mac OS is undoubtably powerful, but still lacking in user-friendliness. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t wish I had a capacitive touchscreen on my Macbook Pro Retina.

Gorilla Arm is an utterly silly term – partially because people do not operate with their arms hovering blindly in front of the object that they’re using. When you’re using the TV, do you hover your arm around after you use the remote? Or when you’re reading, do you have your hand hanging upwards, waiting desperately for the next page turn, eager to delve even further into the world of Wizards and Magick? No. I didn’t think so. And it’s folly to apply that logic to a potentially transformative operating system.

If developers back Windows 8, it can and will be a competitive and fundamentally different operating system, one that will update in realtime much like the much-loved Windows Phone 8 – that Sasha Segan thinks the media may deliver infanticide to, and I’m betting the same for Windows 8. Unless, of course, Microsoft sinks some of that money they’re wasting on hiring Jessica Alba and Cam Newton for advertisements and puts it into hiring excellent developers to create interesting, refreshing apps.

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The best apps for your new Windows PC

This is a good year to get a PC for the holidays. So well done, you! You’ve gotten your hands on a Yoga, or a Zenbook, or a ThinkPad, or an XPS, or any of the many other brands of Windows-running laptops and desktops out there. If your new machine has Windows 8 on it, the first thing you’ll want to do is fire up the Windows Store and hunt for apps. The second thing you’ll do is be disappointed, because Windows 8’s good apps are tough to find at the moment. They’re out there, though, and we’ve been looking for them — whether you want to read news, keep your computer safe, or just listen to some music, there’s a good app out there. Here are some of our favorites.

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METROTWIT DESKTOP

MetroTwit is one of the best looking Twitter clients out there — and it’s free! Windows 8 offers up a number of new alternatives, if you’re on a desktop or laptop PC then you’ll want to checkout MetroTwit desktop. The Windows 8-style version isn’t as good as the desktop app at the moment, but fortunately both are still being actively updated with tweaks and fixes — and MetroTwit is pretty enough to be a great choice right now.

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MICROSOFT SECURITY ESSENTIALS

Windows 8 includes Microsoft’s Windows Defender solution, so you might not need any additional anti-virus software unless you want really granular control (or you’re just paranoid). But if you have a PC running Windows 7, check out Microsoft Security Essentials, a free anti-virus solution from Microsoft that doesn’t nag you or try to upsell you like Norton or McAfee.

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FLUFFYAPP

Built on CloudApp and similar to GrabBox (one of our favorite Mac apps), FluffyAppmakes sharing files insanely simple. It’s a lightweight app that sits in your taskbar, and whenever you need to share a file you just drag it onto the FluffyApp icon. It automatically uploads your file, and then places the file’s URL into your clipboard — all you have to do is hit Paste and Send, and you’ve shared whatever you needed. It’s easy to configure the service to automatically upload screenshots, too — it’s a really handy little tool for anyone wishing to share pictures on a regular basis.

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RAINMETER

If Windows isn’t pretty enough for you, fix it. The free Rainmeter tool lets you create widgets, customize sidebars, and make the desktop whatever you want it to be — it can be a slightly better-looking Windows, or you can create some other totally unrecognizable environment. The Rainmeter community is big and vibrant, too, and there are always cool new ways to spruce up your computer.

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WINDOWS ESSENTIALS 2012

Microsoft’s Windows Essentials are dying off in favor of new Windows 8-style replacements, but the desktop versions still have the upper hand for now. With Writer, Messenger, Photo Gallery, and Movie Maker all available in the Essentials package, it’s a no-brainer for Windows users — the apps are all better than what comes bundled with Windows. It’s a free download, and honestly we’re not sure why they don’t just come pre-installed on Windows. No matter, though — you can get it quickly.

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SKITCH

Sometimes you don’t need all the power of Photoshop — you just need a way to make a goofy arrow on a picture or annotate a design mockup. For those situations, for making fun of your friends’ weird Facebook pictures, and for making it perfectly clear how to get to your house, Skitch is perfect. It’s a Windows 8-style app that makes drawing and sharing really easy, and it links with your Evernote account to keep everything stored in the cloud.

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XBOX MUSIC / SPOTIFY

If your new computer is a Windows 8 or Windows RT machine, then you already have free streaming access to Xbox Music, Microsoft’s new Rdio and Spotify-like service. Xbox Music has a large collection of songs (and did we mention you can try it free?), but the Windows 8-style Music app still needs a bit of work. If you’d rather stick with what you know,Spotify’s Windows app works just fine in the desktop — and works on Windows 7, too, in case you’re on the older OS.

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SKYDRIVE AND DROPBOX

SkyDrive and Dropbox are the ultimate cloud storage services for Windows. Dropbox offers more features, but SkyDrive comes with more free storage (7GB instead of Dropbox’s 2GB), and tighter integration with Microsoft’s other services. If you’re a Hotmail or Outlook user then SkyDrive is an obvious choice, but a combination of the two is a good way to increase your cloud storage, and to get all your data backed up and synced across all your devices.

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NEXTGEN READER (WINDOWS 8)

We’re less and less enamored with Google Reader’s web version, so your best bet is to get a good desktop RSS client. Nextgen Reader is that client — it’s a clean, useful $2.99 app that works well with a touchscreen or a keyboard and mouse. You can sync for offline support, pin feeds to your Start screen so you never miss a thing, and much more.

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STEAM

If you got a new computer today, there’s a decent chance it doesn’t have an optical drive. But that’s cool — everything you want is probably on Steam anyway, and the games are probably cheaper there too. Make Steam your first stop for any games you want to find — and be sure and pay attention to the constant firesales of great titles.

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ESPN

One thing the new-look Windows is great at is surfacing a lot of news and content quickly. If you’re a sports fan, ESPN’s Windows 8 app is a must-download: it’s a great-looking app with plenty of scores, news, videos, and highlights. ESPN also features a lot of its magazine content, which looks great in a full-screen reading mode. It’s free, and definitely one of the best sports apps out there.

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EVERNOTE

Our favorite everything-everywhere app is available in a couple of forms on Windows 8. You can get it styled for the Windows 8 Store, or download a desktop version direct fromEvernote. We like the desktop version more – it’s considerably more powerful — but the Windows 8-style app makes for a great minimalist writing tool as well. Plus, they’re both free and they both connect to the eminently cross-platform service easily.

Lenovo, Dell, HP Windows 8 Tablets on Hold Due to Problems in Drivers

Dell along with other companies manufacturing Windows 8 tablets are having unexpected troubles with the drivers in running their new products, this leads to delaying the release for a month according to the companies.

So much for Dell’s hope in launching its Latitude 10 tablet before Christmas, now, the company posted at its website to have the tabled out on January 23, 2013. Clients, who lined up orders for this device, were already notified for the delay.

The PC makers seemed to be having problems in creating drivers for the dual-core processor, Clover Trial Atom Z2760, which will serve to aid the manufactures in challenging the top-quality Android gadgets when it comes to battery life and performance as well.

This delay also affects Lenovo’s ThinkPAd 2, which they look forward to launch before the year’s end, and now are left with no choice but to reschedule their release on January 8.

HP too, is hit by this driver problem. Envy x2, HP’s newsiest Windows 8 table has been moved to delay its release for more than a month. The device will be out by January 8 according to the company.

This ruckus on the Microsoft industry’s   Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) might damage its name and the image of their quality test procedures, or worst, the critics might point on Intel for its inability in getting its drivers approved for Clover Trail by Windows Hardware Quality Labs.

It is illegal for Windows to sell its PCs until all of its components are approved by Windows Hardware Quality Labs. This law is according to Microsoft’s Operating System licensing terms.

As of now, clients are eager in getting their orders delivered by next year, and as for the Windows 8 tablet companies, well, there is nothing left to do but wait and hope that things will be fixed on or before the release dates.

Some Windows Phone 8 devices get updated and more Microsoft news of the week

Some Windows Phone 8 users have been getting the first update to their devices over the past week-plus.
That update, believed to be codenamed “Portico,” includes a fix for rogue phone reboots, issues with Bluetooth connectivity, and being incorrectly routed to tethering upsell pages when browsing, among has other updates.

Up until this week, Microsoft was deferring all questions about the timing and features in this update to carriers. Microsoft officials wouldn’t even say when and if Nokia Windows Phone 8 users — along with HTC 8X users — were going to get Portico.

Nokia came clean this week, telling its Windows Phone 8 users on AT&T and Rogers that they’d get the update this week. For some reason, Lumia Windows Phone 8 users on all other carriers won’t get Portico until February 2013. Meanwhile, HTC 8X users in Europe have been reporting they’re geting Portico delivered over-the-air. But here in the U.S., it seems only T-Mobile users are getting the first HTC 8X update, at least so far.

Microsoft has set up a Windows Phone 8 update history page as of this week, which is a positive step. But why all the secrecy around this first update? If it’s a case of needing to roll out slowly so as to monitor the impact of the update on phone performance, why not simply indicate that?

By the way, those Windows Phone 8 users still having problems with automatic brightness settings even after applying Portico, you might want to try a calibration trick about which Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Richard Hay blogged earlier this week.

Microsoft goes public with features cut from Outlook with 2013 release

Meanwhile, speaking of going public with not-so-happy information, the Outlook 2013 has done just that with a new blog post this week listing the features that are being deprecated with the coming Outlook release.

The one that got the most attention from bloggers this week was Microsoft’s decision to drop importing and exporting support for its own legacy .xls and .doc file formats. (These are file formats used in Excel 97 through 2003 and Word 97 through 2003.)

But the deprecated feature I’ve gotten the most mail about is the decision to no longer provide search results for mail and calendar items in Windows Explorer or via the Start Menu. This change probably is somewhat less surprising to Windows 8 users, who are expected to search within apps. But to those using the new Outlook on older versions of Windows, the lack of the ability to surface mail and calendar searches without doing so inside Outlook itself has proven jarring, according to some from which I’ve heard.

Microsoft is slated to make Outlook 2013 generally available in early 2013, when it launches its Office 2013/New Office product family. (I’m hearing the likely date is the end of January 2013.)
New 7-inch (and 12-inch) Windows RT tablet coming from HTC?

Bloomberg reported this week that HTC is supposedly working on two Windows RT tablets: a seven-inch and a 12-inch model. Both are said to be on track to launch in the third calendar quarter of 2013 — which could/should mean Windows “Blue” would likely be the preloaded version of Windows on them, if all rumors end up aligning.

The other Microsoft partner supposedly working on a newWindows RT tablet for 2013 is Nokia, which, along with HTC, is one of Microsoft’s flagship Windows Phone allies.

The seven-inch form factor is one from which Microsoft itself seems to be shying away. When I’ve asked whether there might be a Surface Mini in the wings, I’ve heard from my contacts that Microsoft isn’t convinced that a PC (which is what the Softies consider tablets to be) is a good form factor for creation and consumption.

The other part of Bloomberg’s report that’s intriguing is supposedly the two new rumored HTC tablets will be able to make phone calls. I’m wondering if this simply means they’ll preload Skype…. Mostly I’m hoping for a little more differentiation in whatever new Windows tablets come to market next year.

Microsoft delivers Azure updates across mobile services, Web sites, Store and more

Microsoft rolled out a number of incremental updates to Windows Azure on December 21. On the short list, according to a blog post by Corporate Vice President Scott Guthrie:

  • Mobile Services (job scheduler support, Europe Region Support, Command Line Support)
  • Web Sites (scale improvements, integrated source control)
  • SQL Data Sync (support in the new HTML portal)
  • ACS Management (support in the new HTML portal)
  • Media Services (job and task management, blob storage support, reserved compute)
  • Virtual Network enhancements
  • Subscription Filtering Support

All of these updates are available immediately, Guthrie said.

Lotaris gives alternative commerce platform for Windows 8 devs

Mobile app licenser Lotaris has launched a new commerce platform for Windows 8 which, it claims, offers the best revenue opportunities to Windows 8 developers.

Called ‘Lotaris in-appCommerce for Windows 8’, the company, who has the likes of Symantec and Sega on its books, claims a “compelling alternative” to the usual channels of monetisation through Windows 8.

Utilising the three month Windows 8 Early Release Programme – available to the first 300 who register on the platform – devs can keep 100% of revenues for 90 days after their account has been activated.

Lotaris claims that the platform is more profitable than Microsoft’s own commerce platform because with Lotaris devs only have to pay 9.85% of revenue, as opposed to the 20% or 30% Microsoft charges.

Similarly, Lotaris allows developers to have direct relationships with their app users, a change from Microsoft, who doesn’t give out consumer details to devs.

Other interesting features of the platform includes easy migration from the Windows Store API to the Lotaris API, CRM and analytics software and in-app licensing for both Windows 7 and 8.

According to Lotaris chief operations officer Christophe Lienhard, Windows is beginning to close the gap on its competitors in the systems race.

“The recent success of Windows 8 has given new impetus to the OS war,” Lienhard said, adding: “Research shows that 10% of Windows Phone gamers spend more than $25 a month in the Windows Store.

Lienhard added: “These ‘whales’, along with flexibility of the app licensing and payment business models enabled through the new Lotaris in-appCommerce service, offer great monetisation opportunities for Windows 8 app developers.”

Windows 8 app development could arguably be a lucrative path for developers, although asking Jeffrey Harmon might not be the best idea.

Harmon’s app, Memorylage, was rejected several times from the Windows Store for increasingly farcical reasons before finally being accepted, in the end writing on his blog: “Windows 8 is a great opportunity for developers, but as it stands, they are in for a world of hurt trying to get through that last hurdle.”

Given back in June it was revealed BlackBerry developers earn more than those on other systems per app, perhaps developing for Windows could be a lucrative, niche market too.

Do you see Windows 8 climbing the OS ladder and if so, why?

Nokia tablet to become a reality through Windows 8 RT?

The Nokia tablet could well be a reality after rumours have surfaced suggesting that the company is working on a 10-inch Windows 8 RT tablet to rival the Microsoft Surface RT.

DigiTimes reports that the company is working with Qualcomm and another hardware company to look into the viability of launching a Windows 8 tablet next year alongside its flagship Windows Phone 8 smartphones.

With a strong relationship to Windows Phone 8 through the Nokia Lumia 920 and the original Lumia 800, Nokia certainly has the experience needed to create such a tablet.

That said sources close to the matter have implied that Nokia is still currently looking at the market after sales of Windows 8 tablets have not been as high as the company had hoped.

Of course that doesn’t mean we won’t see a prototype come CES 2013 as many of the technology companies will be looking to debut their upcoming products including Samsung’s new 110-inch UHD TV and the possibility of a new flagship smartphone from HTC.

This isn’t the first time Nokia has been rumoured to be launching a tablet, back in March Nokia Design Chief Marko Ahtisaari confirmed that he was working on aNokia Windows 8 tablet.

Before that it was rumoured the company was working on a MeeGo tablethowever this was before Nokia made the decision to move to Windows Phone.

With tablets like the new iPad and the iPad Mini both claiming huge shares of the market Nokia will be looking to create something that can compete with both the Windows 8 market and the wider spectrum of operating systems available.

Simplify search on Windows 8

One of the better functions in Windows 8 is the ability to search your entire computer using the search “charm”. You need to access the menu from the right-hand side of the screen before using it.

But did you know you don’t actually need to open it to use the search function? From the opening start menu, all you need to do to start searching is type.

Simply start typing and the search will take place automatically.